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Something to keep in mind during season of thanks
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“God must really love poor people because, otherwise, he would not have made so many.” - Fifteen words that Abraham Lincoln scholars contend the Great Emancipator never said but are attributed anyway by many to the 16th President of the United States

The strength of a community is not measured in its institutions or its monuments whether they are in the form of a baseball complex that is a dozen or so cuts above other municipal sports fields, grandiose houses of worship, or super-sized tract homes with all the whistles and bells.

It is measured in how people reach out to the underprivileged, those who are struggling and the defenseless whether they are young and old, crippled or handicapped.

Manteca is far from perfect. But those who chose to slam Manteca are blind to a tradition of giving – as well as extending a helping hand – that has been part of the community’s fabric for generations.

The latest example was the community’s continued commitment to making sure none of their neighbors who are struggling will go without a Thanksgiving meal. The need has never been greater - 2,000 turkeys - in the communities of Manteca, Ripon, and Lathrop. And with five days left to place turkey orders it looked as if Turkeys R Us would come up short for the first time in 12 years. Manteca, though, came through. People answered the call and donated $5,430 in less than five hours.

It needs to be made clear. These are not big corporations or families and individuals that are extremely wealthy. They were working folks, community organizations, and small businesses who are all struggling.

It is true grace to be hurting yourself but to have the presence to  take pause from your own trials and tribulations, count your blessings, look around at the need of others, and then to open your heart as well as your wallet.

Turkeys R Us is just one example of dozens upon dozens in the community.

A lot of the good that is done comes from those who are often criticized by the usual suspects for supposedly not doing enough when in truth they are doing a lot more than meets the  eye. Such is the case with the community’s various houses of worship who have set aside their small religious differences and joined together  united under the bigger philosophies that they have in common to work together to  reach out to those who are struggling.

The Manteca Ministerial Association - as well as individual churches that have even taken the commitment farther - are the driving forces behind HOPE Family Shelter and Love Inc. The two organizations focus is on extending not handouts but helping hands. At the same time individual churches operate a variety of reach out ministries from food and clothes closets to community-based endeavors designed to improve the quality of life whether it is helping an elderly shut-in on limited income with handyman style work or tidying up a city park.

They are driven by the belief in order to nourish the soul you have to have heart.

Secular groups also have a rich history of stepping up to the plate such as the Sunrise Kiwanis. They spend countless hours not just staging the Pumpkin Fair to generate funds each year but then invest even more hours using that money to reach out into the community.

A lot of political rhetoric has been spelled on the national scene about how it takes a village to raise a child. True but often those words are uttered with the goal of having government do it by taxing the village and not the village itself stepping up.

The power of one-on-one can never be overvalued. Just ask the tutor/mentors in the Give Every Child a Chance program and the struggling kids they help to strive for their potential.

A government check is only money.  The effort of a volunteer or a donor provides a tangible connection to the community.

The burden of those who are struggling is also a burden of the rest of the community.

Yes, there are those who take advantage of situation, that refuse to help themsleves, and who indulge so decadently in the Seven Deadly Sins that they try the community’s collective patience and exhaust all sense of goodwill.

But still the deeds of individuals acting on their own or in concert with others in the community has a bigger impact in making a difference in the lives of those struggling than is ever acknowledged by self-serving government types that determine the best way to solve needs is by money funneled through the heartless and soulless bureaucracy.

It is something to keep in mind during this season of thanks.